Jeff Quinney got a valuable lesson today. One that will sear itself into his memory even more than those he has received during the last two consecutive PGA Tour events where he has contended – if that is possible. The 2000 United States Amateur Champion, Canadian Tour and Nationwide Tour winner, and now PGA Tour rookie, is finding out the hard way just how good his competitors are on the premier tour in the world. At the same time he has become painfully aware how such a large stage will expose your vulnerabilities.
Holding a three-stroke lead with just a few holes to play at the 2007 FBR Open, some observers probably thought he had the tournament in hand, finally registering a victory after close calls in this year’s Bob Hope Chrysler Classic and the Buick Invitational. But, alas, golf is not so predictable – or easy.
If Quinney had not “choked”, as he clearly did today in the Arizona desert where he played his collegiate golf, there is still no guarantee he would have won. He looked very much out of his routine during the final two holes of the tournament, which he played in a cumulative two over par.
The one factor you can deal with in golf is yourself and even if Quinney had taken care of that properly there was still not guarantee of success. Aaron Baddeley, with birdies on four of his last six holes was just too much – winning the event, even more than Quinney was throwing it away. It is even a tougher pill to swallow considering both make their home in Scottsdale and they just happen to be neighbors.
Quinney has certainly shown he is a tremendous talent, with three top ten finishes already in the books early in 2007, but while the bulk of his play has been outstanding – the “rookie” moments” have really cost him so far this season. Failing in the heat of the moment with bad decision making and poor execution will earn you a lot of gray hairs in pro golf, and eventually a second career.
After his 3rd round of the FBR he told the media, “Yeah, I’m going to have to fire at everything,” obviously recognizing that the other players would be looking to tear apart the TPC of Scottsdale in the final round. Sure, he had to be aggressive, it’s the PGA Tour – you have to score low if you want to win. But even the best player in the world knows there are times when you need to throttle down.
Quinney’s faux pas was the 17th on Sunday, the drivable par 4 where he watched as Baddeley teed off first with a three wood and kept his ball dry – in position to make birdie with a well executed pitch shot. Meanwhile, to the chagrin of many, Quinney took driver out and hooked it terribly into the water, short and left of the green from where he went on to make a bogey after a horribly nervous looking first putt.
It was especially baffling to witness his tee shot selection when you consider the back hole location that not even long bomber Bubba Watson could reach. If Quinney had just studied some tapes of past events he would have known that a more conservative approach would always yield a better score on Sunday at the FBR. Only 18 birdies were recorded on #17 in this year’s final round, with the hole averaging an even 4.00. It is not the same hole as it is during the rest of the week when players average around 3.5 strokes on it with front hole locations.
Even if he did not know that – a good caddy should. Either way – someone within the duo is to blame for the poor strategy.
While Aaron Baddeley is almost three years younger, he has already won on tour. That experience showed on Sunday, as he did not wilt, instead forging ahead for the win. Good on him for posting his second tour win and seizing the opportunity and the trophy.
In time Quinney will gain the experience and mental strength to help him finish off a PGA Tour win – where you need to play well, and think well, right to the end. He already has shown he has the physical ability to score well.
He has a long rookie year to think about what could have been at the 2007 FBR Open. One made even harder knowing that trophy that could have been his sits not on his mantle, but one just down the street in the Grayhawk community.
If that is not motivation to get better, I don’t know what is.